Future Watch: Ryan Martindale
Oilers prospect embraces opportunity with ECHL's Stockton Thunder
|Ryan Martindale skates in a pre-season game vs. Calgary on Sep. 24, 2011 at Rexall Place (Photo by Getty Images).
It's about opportunity, not location; and although the end-goal, as the 20-year-old understands, is to patrol the Edmonton Oilers' game night roster, he's got to crack another minor-league pillar en route. Devan Dubnyk did the same, and now his career has landed in the enviable role as a sophomore in the National Hockey League.
"It's been very good," Martindale said, recapping a rookie campaign in which he's gathered 14 points in 30 games to this point. "Stockton is a great place to play. I'm getting so much ice time down here, so I'm able to work on playing in those situations where I might not be able to if I'm thrown in at a higher level."
Last season, Martindale notched 34 goals and 83 points in 65 games with the OHL's Ottawa 67s. Having established such remarkable success since his Jr. career began in 2007-08, the progression to the journey's next stop at the pro level has came naturally.
"It's been a good transition," he said. "The pro game is more mature than the Jr. level is, so it's definitely been an adjustment coming in. But through the practice and experience in the games, I've become more and more comfortable in the league, and I feel as though I can really make an impact here."
With 4,255 kilometers between his home in Oshawa and the rink in Nor-Cal, the road to Stockton has been paved with a guided development plan. The 6'3", 207-pounder was a big-body presence with a lumbering stride, but he's improved leaps and bounds in a calendar year and especially over the summer, impressing the masses at various Oilers camps this past September.
"It's always getting better and it's something that I don't want to stop working on," Martindale said, noting the value in his skating. "I want to keep improving and keep building on my skills as I go. The Oilers have helped me out a lot. (Skating and Skills Coach) Steve Serdachny has talked to me and spent some time with me, which has really helped out. I'm trying to take what he's taught me and incorporate it into my game so I can continue to improve all around.
"[The Oilers] are always in close contact, and they're always there to lend a helping hand and help out wherever and whenever I've needed it," he added. "It's pretty neat, because it helps me and other players in the organization grow and get better when you're given such constant and detailed advice."
It's been a similar response to the 67s' work a while back. Having been born with a natural and all-encompassing up-ice arsenal, it was Martindale's defensive game that needed attention. Just like the progression in work ethic and physical development, that too has undergone a drastic improvement since his third round selection in 2010.
"Ottawa gave me so much help and taught me a lot about the importance of defence," he said. Coming into [the ECHL], it's something that everyone stresses; you know, it's the most important part of the game, so I took that knowledge and tried to build upon it and improve some more, incorporating it as best I could.
"They've been really good and I've been able to pick up even more," Martindale added about the Oilers camps he's attended. "It's eye-opening to see the pros work on their game and to witness just how much work is required to make the dream happen. I've gone in and been like a sponge, soaking up all the information I could to learn more and improve my game.
"It's good to get out and play against that competition, too, in the pre-season games. It's showed me what it takes to play at that level and what it will take to get there on a full-time basis."
While Martindale has also been given a quick, two-game audition with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons this season, he's committed to bringing the most to the club in Stockton, setting goals beyond a measure of tallies, assists, points and plus-minus.
"I do set numbers, but I try not to focus too much on them," he explained. "I just try to go out with the attitude to get better every practice and every game, to build overall as a player. I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish so far, but that doesn't mean I need to be satisfied. I see so much more potential in myself, so I'm always striving to reach that next level."
In time and with the attitude he's brought to the Thunder, a once lofty childhood dream of making it big seems closer than ever.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
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